‘Never turn back’ lifeboat memorial handed proud listed status
PUBLISHED: 17:12 08 June 2020 | UPDATED: 18:01 08 June 2020
A memorial for nine lifeboatmen has been added to the nation’s list of buildings of historic interest.
The Grade II designation of the Beauchamp memorial, in Caister, means extra protection and recognition of its value.
In the listing it is hailed by Historic England for its sculptural quality featuring a broken mast, anchor, laurel wreathes, and lifebuoy.
Experts said it was a “visual reminder of the tragic loss of life at sea,” describing it as “an eloquent and moving tribute to the bravery of the crew who perished in 1901, and a poignant reminder of the sacrifice of the local community.”
The marble memorial, unveiled in 1903, remembers the crew of the Beauchamp who perished while trying to save a fishing smack in distress.
Poignantly, individual grave stones were placed within the boundary of the memorial in the same position as the crew occupied the lifeboat.
At an inquest into the deaths, assistant coxswain James Haylett famously said the crew would never give up on a stricken vessel, with his comments then being taken up nationally by the press and public as “Caister men never turn back”.
The Beauchamp had been in service for nine years, and been on some 81 “shouts”, when disaster struck.
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The ill-fated rescue effort saw the boat launched amid churning seas on November 13, 1901.
So severe were the conditions it took several hours to even get afloat, and eventually the boat was overcome and capsized trapping the crew underneath.
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James Haylett, who witnessed the disaster, was able to rescue his son-in-law Charles Knights and grandson Walter Haylett along with crew member John Hubbard.
However the nine remaining men - including four other Hayletts - could not be saved.
The inquest into the tragedy was opened the following day.
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When asked by the coroner why the mission was not aborted due to the severe conditions, Mr Haylett replied: “They would never give up the ship.
“If they had to keep at it ‘til now, they would have sailed about until daylight to help her.
“Going back is against the rules when we see distress signals like that.”
The phrase “never turn back” became the motto of the Caister Lifeboat crew and eventually was adopted as a motto throughout the RNLI.
Caister lifeboat spokesman Colin Willavize, said: “This is something that we are all very proud of.”
The Caister Lifeboat Station has been independent of the RNLI since 1969 and is one of only three independent lifeboat stations in the country.
A total of 20 lifeboat crew from the village have lost their lives saving trying to save others at sea.
The Beauchamp crewmen lost were: Aaron Walter Haylett (Coxswain), James Haylett Jr (Late Cox), William Brown (Second Coxswain), Charles Brown, William Wilson, John Smith, George King, Charles George, and Harry Knights.
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